A Muslim’s Take On The Lent Plastic Challenge By Church of England

The Church of England just issued a set of commandments to the followers to reduce the use of plastic products over Lent in order to save the environment from its disastrous effects. The church’s 42 dioceses are being encouraged to participate in the “Lent Plastic Challenge” in order “to reduce the actions which damage God’s Creation”.

For Anglicans Lent is the time when we remember the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, facing challenge and temptation. It is a time when we reflect on God’s purpose for our life. This year we challenge you to give up single-use plastics – to reduce the actions which damage God’s Creation.

Lent started this week with the observation of Ash Wednesday. Christians spend 40 days in various acts of worship and personal reflection, leading up to the Easter week.

Christians around the world spend 40 days of repentance, prayers, mortification of the flesh (putting the ‘sinful nature’ to death by various acts of self reflection and actions), almsgiving and fasting, giving up the luxurious life style to commemorate the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert, when he was tempted by Satan three times.

The 40 days of Lent and the self-reflection and purification of the spirit would seem very familiar to the Muslims. We spend 30 days of fasting during the month of Ramadan each year, spending time in prayers, charity, self-reflection, purification and seeking nearness to God.

Christians give up smoking, alcohol and food during Lent.

But giving up the use of plastic?

Plastic is considered one of the worst pollutants to the environment. It does not decay!

If Jesus used a plastic bag 2000 years ago, it would have been still around!(Of course he did not use any).

The church pointed out that there has been over 9 billion tons of plastic produced since the 1950s. According to a BBC report:

A study published by scientists at the University of George in July last year estimated that 8.3 billion tonnes (tons) of plastic has been created since large-scale production started in the 1950s.

I don’t think I need to convince you on the adverse effects of plastic but plastic is a known pollutant for the oceans, marine life, the environment and has adverse health effects on humans. Plastic waste causes fouling beaches, killing wildlife and clogging landfills.

The Church of England took a bold, very 21st century-style step to lead the way to command the followers to be environmentally conscious.

The Church of England gave specific examples of how the worshippers can help. These include:

  • Avoid single-use plastic bags.
  • Avoid plastic water bottles.
  • Use bar soap, rather than hand gel in plastic bottles.
  • Avoid using mini-bars when traveling (expensive stuff wrapped in plastic).
  • Use razor with removable blades.

Here is a full list of Lent Plastic Challenge.

Protecting the planet earth, the wild life, the environment is also very Islamic. These couple of Hadiths (sayings of Prophet Muhammad) are the closest to asking the Muslims to be environmentally conscious. The Church of England’s “to reduce the actions which damage God’s Creation” is totally in line with these hadiths.

Those who are kind and considerate to God’s creatures, God bestows His kindness and affection on them. Show kindness to the creatures on the earth so that God may be kind to you.

All creatures are [like] a family of God: and He loves most those who are kindest to His family. (Narrated by Anas. Mishkat al-Masabih, 3:1392; quoted from Bukhari.)

Sure these Hadiths are not very specific, but they clearly provide the guidelines to protect all of God’s creations- including planet earth, it’s environment and it’s inhabitants- that includes wildlife.

I wish that the Muslim religious leadership would take similar bold steps to guide the Muslim communities around the world. I understand the Muslims don’t have the same hierarchy as the Christian churches, but they are still rather very influential.

How about a fatwa to ban or reduce plastic use?

Till then, Muslims have to rely on the general guidelines provided by the Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad. For more specifics, how about just following the commandments of the Church of England to eliminate the use of plastic? As I mentioned earlier, “to reduce the actions which damage God’s Creation” is totally in line with these hadiths.

You do not have to be a Christian or a Muslim to follow these guidelines, and the Church of England’s specific commandments. These are good instructions for Jews, Hindus and people of other faiths.

Heck, these are good guidelines the atheists can follow too.

So now you know what to say the next time the grocery clerk asks you, ‘paper or plastic?’

No, the answer is not, “paper”.

The right answer is “why are you still offering plastic?


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Update- February 20, 2018: One of my friends and Imam, Dr Rajabally, pointed out to me after this post was published that ISNA (Islamic Society of North America)has a campaign, “masjid go green“, that deals with protecting the climate. It came out in 2015. According to my friend, many Islamic centers are participating.

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